Wilhelm Wundt was born in Baden, Germany on August 16, 1832. He began his formal education at the University of Tubingen and later enrolled in the University of Berlin and the University of Heidelberg. He graduated from Heidelberg with a degree in medicine in 1856. He accepted a position on staff at the university and worked as an assistant to Hermann von Helmholtz, a physiologist. While at Heidelberg, Wundt taught experimental scientific psychology and gave lectures on his scientific approach to psychology. He was offered the position of Assistant Professor of Physiology in 1864 and began to explore neuropsychology while still at Heidelberg.
In 1874 Wundt’s influential book, Principles of Physiological Psychology, was published based on Wundt’ principles of using ‘internal perception’ to examine one’s feelings, ideas, emotions and conscious experiences. This revolutionary book introduced the idea of evaluating one’s own consciousness through objective observation. Wundt believed that spiritual essence, if it existed, was insignificant and had no bearing on emotional and psychological construct. Wundt theorized that comprehension only came to be through observation of physical data and phenomena. It was this belief that propelled psychology into its mainstream position in academia.
Wundt founded the first psychological research laboratory while at the University of Leipzig. The laboratory was created to research spiritual theories, examine varying abnormal behaviors and identify and isolate specific mental disorders. The laboratory paved the way for the acceptance of psychology as a distinct science. Wundt is also responsible for the creation of the first psychological research journal in 1881. He is considered by many to be the “father of experimental psychology.”
Contribution to Psychology
Although Wundt did not develop one specific theory of psychology or therapeutic technique, his tireless work and research, that spanned over fifty years, influenced the development of psychology as a separate field of medicine entirely. Additionally, his book, Principles, is recognized as one of the most important works used in psychological training and education. He also contributed to the field of psycholinguistics and theorized that the mental dialogue was directly responsible for the spoken verbal sentence and was, therefore, an integral part of human speech.
One of his most loyal students, Titchener, referred to Wundt’s views as Structuralism, although Wundt’s research and theories included subjects of physiology, philosophy, psychology, and psycholinguistics. In recognition of his immense body of work and impact on the field, the American Psychological Association created the “Wilhelm Wundt-William James Aware for Exceptional Contributions to Trans-Atlantic Psychology.”